Guided discussion takes careful preparation. It is necessary to study deep enough for you to personally understand the passage; but it is important to press on further to think of ways to help your group discover on their own.
Here are six basic tips to help your small group get the most out of the discussion.
1. Start with open-ended questions or “no-one-right-answer” questions.
These types of questions help funnel people’s minds from their day filled with work, home, kids, and craziness into the discussion.
These questions will also help get people open to sharing without the fear of giving the wrong answer. An opening question that is too deep or narrow will often limit open and lively discussion.
Bad Example: “Thank you for coming today. Someone please explain the differences in belief between pre-tib, mid-trib, and post-trib rapture. And include an explanation of which you believe, and why.”
Good Example: “Which TV family (past or present) most closely represents your family? (The Adams Family, Family Feud, Dr. Phil, Downton Abby, CSI?)”
2. Think ahead in order to phrase your questions in a way that is relevant to your audience.
Every group has a different personality and dynamic (Men, women, married couples, singles, grandparents, hurting, broken, spiritually deep, baby Christians, etc.) Make sure your questions are personally tailored to your group.
3. Yes/No questions are a dead end.
Only use them intentionally – then follow up with “why?” or “explain your answer.”
Bad Example: “Do you think the parable of the Prodigal Son is a good example of God’s grace?”
Good Example: “Do you think the parable of the Prodigal Son is a good example of God’s grace? Why?”
Better Example: “How do you think the parable of the Prodigal Son demonstrates God’s grace?”
Even Better Example: “What aspects of God’s character are displayed in the parable of the Prodigal Son?”
4. Show the group that you genuinely value their thoughts and opinions by actively listening.
Do your best to pay attention to the person who is speaking rather than looking through your notes and/or preparing the next question. Provide verbal and non-verbal feedback that shows your interest in their response.
5. A little Silence is OK.
Sometimes there may be dead space when you ask a question. Even though it may feel uncomfortable at first, fight the impulse to answer your own questions. The silence may simply be the time it takes for people to think through your question and consider their response.
6. Be ready to rephrase the question if necessary.
If no one responds (after a few moments of silence), or if they seem confused, reword your question. Your question may seem vague or unclear. …But avoid oversimplifying the question, or giving away the answer.
Once you have a good handle on these 6 tips, click here to try some more advanced techniques for preparing and asking good discussion questions.